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Chicago Cubs Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

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The Cubs rode the fruits of the best farm system in baseball to a 24 win turnaround and their first playoff appearance since 2008. And despite graduating their top four prospects in 2015, they stand to see more contributions in 2016 and beyond thanks to a deep well of talent and excellent scouting. So who are the Cubs top-ten fantasy prospects?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

With the offseason in full swing, that means it will be time for teams to assess their needs for next season and start planning for a longer than hoped offseason. We're at the same point for fantasy owners in dynasty leagues, and we're here to help you with the information you need as you prepare for your minor league drafts.

In previous years, we have done rather intensive top 10 prospect lists, including an organizational rundown, opportunities in the coming season, as well as the top fantasy prospects. However, we have found that a number of these topics are covered as we continue through the offseason, and specifically through profiles done as a part of our preseason redraft rankings. As a result, this year's top 10 lists will be primarily that: a list of the prospects with brief writeups rather than the 4000-8000 word opuses that have occurred in the past. We feel that this year's format will both suit the goal better (of providing fantasy relevant information and rankings) as well as allow us to move through them much more quickly so that they can be completed by the Christmas holiday.

The schedule itself is fairly basic: We cover a division, going in alphabetical order of city/location name. This means the next team after this post will be the Reds, and then the Brewers.

Our Basis

With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.

Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat I provide every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the offseason, and so it is very possible that by the end of the offseason, how we view a player may be very different from where we had them originally.  We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.

The Tiers

Something new I wanted to introduce this year is a tier system to help delineate where prospects are likely to fall on the overall top prospect list. We have not completed our top prospects lists yet, and will not likely do so until we are close to finishing all the prospect rankings. The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers which do not have prospects for certain teams.

Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects

These prospects are expected to be in the top 25-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.

The Cubs do not have any prospects in this tier.

Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates

These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.

#1 - Gleyber Torres (SS)
Age on Opening Day: 19
ETA: 2018

At first blush, Torres' full-season debut may not jump off the page - he hit .293/.353/.386 with 3 HR and 22 SB (against 13 CS) in 538 PA. However, in the context of the pitcher-friendly Midwest League, that line was 16% above-average per wRC+, and Torres was the third-youngest everyday player in the league. Torres has fringe average or better tools across the board, and has an advanced, aggressive approach at the plate, spraying line drives from gap to gap (which portends a strong batting average). He doesn't have much present power, though many feel that he could hit 12 to 15 home runs at his peak. Torres seems a lock to stick at shortstop, as well, where his solid all-around offense could make him an All-Star.

#2 - Duane Underwood (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 21
ETA: 2018

Underwood is another example of a player whose numbers belie his strengths as a top prospect. Despite featuring a fastball that sits in the mid-90s with movement and a hard, swing-and-miss curveball, he has struck out fewer than 7 batters per 9 in his professional career (including 5.9 K/9 at Class A this year). The lack of strikeouts has been partially attributed to Underwood working on his change-up, shelving his more advanced curve, and picking up plenty of grounders along the way. Most reports indicate that it has paid off, as his change-up appears to be a genuine weapon at this point, giving him three average or better pitches, and all the makings of an above-average starter.

#3 - Ian Happ (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 21
ETA: 2017

Heading into the 2015 draft, Happ was on most everyone's short list for best pure hitter in the draft, with some going so far as saying he had the "best present hit tool in the class." He demonstrated his advanced approach and talent by putting up a tremendous .283/.408/.491 slash line with 4 HR and 9 SB at Low-A (156 wRC+), earning a promotion after just 130 PA. Happ scuffled a bit at Class A, but his .241/.315/.448 line with 5 HR in 165 PA was 18% above league-average. The switch-hitter has a plus hit tool and above-average power, and should hit for average and power down the line. Happ has a fair amount of swing and miss from the right side, however, and may be limited to left field - though, some think he could move back to second (his college position). His ultimate ceiling may be determined by his position.

Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters

These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats like 12 and 14 team leagues.

#4 - Billy McKinney (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 21
ETA: 2016

McKinney has garnered the dreaded 'tweener' tag from many scouts, as a prospect that has the offensive profile of an above-average center-fielder, yet lacking the chops to stick up the middle. He was primarily a center-fielder in the A's organization (he was acquired in the Jeff Samardzija deal), but has played on 34 innings there since landing in the Cubs system. Some feel that he should be able to stick in center at least short term, though the consensus is that he will end up an asset in a corner spot. Offensively, everything will depend on his power developing. McKinney has a patient, high-contact approach at the plate, and sprays line drives to all fields. He hasn't shown much power yet (21 HR in 1058 AB), and you'll find reports ranging anywhere from 10 to 12 HR up to 25 HR at his peak - which may well be the difference between a solid-average player and a star.

#5 - Willson Contreras (C)
Age on Opening Day: 23
ETA: 2016

Despite Kyle Schwarber's best Babe Ruth impression in the playoffs, many feel that Contreras is the Cubs' catcher of the future. The former third baseman draws praise for his receiving skills and pop times behind the plate, and seems a lock to stick at the position. Contreras broke out in a big way this season, batting .333/.413/.478 with 34 2B, 8 HR, and nearly as many walks (10.9% of PA) as strikeouts (11.9%) in Double-A. He followed that up by hitting .283/.361/.547 with 3 HR in 61 PA in the Arizona Fall League. Contreras may peak as a .270 to .280 hitter with 12 to 15 home runs, but that is quite good for a catcher - particularly one that profiles as a potential stud defensively.

#6 - Pierce Johnson (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 24
ETA: 2016

Johnson has at least two things going for him - above-average to plus stuff, and amazing hair. He features a low-to-mid 90s fastball, a wipeout curve, and a promising change-up, and has the type of build that suggests durability. However, he struggles to command his pitches at time, and has suffered an array of leg and back injuries in his professional career. Some of that can be attributed to wonky mechanics, which has been an issue since he was in college. After returning from a lat injury this summer, though, Johnson nearly cut his walk rate in half (from 5.3 BB/9 in 2014 to 3.0), and he gives some of the credit for that to Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. If he can put it all together, he has the stuff to be a solid mid-rotation starter.

Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays

These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.

#7 - Dylan Cease (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 23
ETA: 2019

This placement represents a showing of faith in Cease's considerable talent. The young righty was projected as a top-15 pick before suffering a torn UCL prior to the 2014, and was given a well over-slot bonus of $1.5 MM as the Cubs 6th round pick. Why? A 100 MPH fastball and an incredibly advanced curve, in short. Cease has incredible raw stuff and athleticism, and that was on full display when he returned from Tommy John Surgery this summer. He's a work in progress, given the missed development and well below-average command, but he may well have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in this system.

#8 - Albert Almora (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 21
ETA: 2016

Heading into 2015, Almora had fallen out of favor a bit. He was ranked 33rd and 36th by BA in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and was viewed by many as the Cubs center-fielder of the future. And then he hit .270/.291/.392 in 2014, with only 14 BB in 529 PA. Almora's lack of patience was staggering, as his minuscule walk rate was historically low. He remained noteworthy due to strong contact skills, a bit of pop, and excellent defense, but it wasn't difficult to foresee him being eaten alive by more advance pitching. He bounced back in 2015, batting .272/.327/.400 at Double-A (5% above-average per wRC+), and his typically strong defense. Almora's walk rate rose from 2.6% to 7.1%, and he trimmed his strikeouts a bit, as well. He may end up being more valuable in the real world than in fantasy, but Almora will stick up the middle, and could flirt with .300 and hit a dozen home runs at his best.

#9 - Eloy Jimenez (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 19
ETA: 2019

Jimenez was considered the best prospect in the 2013 IFA class, due to his size, athleticism, and hand-eye coordination. Everything is still somewhat ephemeral with Jimenez, given that he has yet to make his full-season debut, but most every report one can find is positively glowing. He's several years away, but his tools fit the classic right field profile - a solid batting average and legitimate power in the middle of a lineup.

#10 - Carl Edwards (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 24
ETA: 2016

It seems as though the Cubs have determined that Edwards is best-suited to be a reliever - a long held belief, due to his size (he's nicknamed the String Bean Slinger) and inconsistent command and control. Few have ever questioned his dynamic one-two punch with his mid-90s fastball and upper-70s, tight spinning curve, and his change-up has always flashed enough to make one dream on a mid-rotation destiny. A shoulder injury dampened a great deal of enthusiasm, however, and the Cubs needs at the MLB-level may have forced their hand. A move back to the rotation should not be out of the question, but, for the time being, Edwards profiles as a lights out closer.